What we can learn from China’s Cultural Revolution
We are already in a cultural revolution in America. It was never officially declared and took decades to prepare. But the end result is that now the main culture is neo-Marxist, with Christianity having receded to a counterculture. To understand this cultural revolution, it helps to take a history lesson from the infamous Cultural Revolution in China from 1966 to 1976.
I was three when it began, so most of my formative years coincided with it. Almost overnight, everything was turned upside down. What used to be good is now bad; what used to be bad is now good. Intellectuals used to be regarded highly and now are considered lower than prostitutes. Peasants and workers are now the ruling class (in reality the communist leaders are the real masters). Almost every book is banned. All the adults and school-age kids, especially those from the so-called bourgeoisie (middle and upper-middle classes), have to take re-education classes to “wash away” the bad influences from the past.
Intellectuals were rounded up and put in labor camps. All the key positions were filled with peasants and workers. K-12 schools, colleges, and universities were all closed. (K-12 schools were reopened in 1970, and some colleges were reopened in 1973.)
Religion was banned. Temples and churches were closed or demolished. Christians, Buddhists, and Daoists were sent to labor camps if they didn’t renounce their faith. Buddhist priests were forced to get married. Bibles were banned and burned.
All movies and theater performances were banned. During the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, only eight so-called model dramas and their variants were promoted. All books published before the revolution were banned and a great many of them were also burned.
History was rewritten. The famous first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, was considered a tyrant for his brutal reign. But now he is a hero because he unified China. Confucius was revered as the greatest educator. But now he is the great accomplice because his teachings were used to maintain the status quo.
All western names were erased from textbooks because they were Western imperialists and colonists. For example, Newton’s laws in physics textbooks were replaced with “law number one”, “law number two”, etc. All of the scientific achievements were not the results of scientists, but the hard work of members of the working class like the lab assistants and janitors.
Almost all the statues, some as old as two or three thousand years, were beheaded or toppled. Antique artifacts and artworks were destroyed or taken by the Red Guards.
Middle and high school students and college students were organized into these so-called Red Guards. They swore their allegiance to Mao and Mao alone. And he unleashed them to turn the whole country upside down. In Beijing alone, in the two months of August and September 1966, 1,772 people were beaten to death; many of them were teachers, professors, and principals. Many famous writers, artists, and musicians chose suicide to escape from further humiliation. More than thirty thousand families were ransacked.
For about a year there was pure terror all across China. The Red Guards used many forms of torture, confiscated private properties, and drove many families out of cities. Many of the victims were intellectuals who once believed that Mao and the communists would bring democracy and science to China.
After they finished with the common enemies, the Red Guards split into two factions. One was led by children of party officials and the other by children of workers and peasants. They started with big letter posts and attacked each other with words. Very soon it escalated into physical violence, and eventually to fights with real weapons. 30,000 to 50,000 red guards died from 1967 to 1968. There is a small mountain in my home city that is full of the graves of teenage red guards.
Mao started the Cultural Revolution to seize absolute power. He used the red guards to dismantle the whole party apparatus and government structure. In the end, he became the god and savior of the Chinese people. His words were the highest authority. He could kill or imprison whomever he didn’t like.
Once he had control of the country, he tricked the red guards to go to farmlands far away from cities in the name of re-education by the peasants. He said the students were educated in the old education system, therefore they needed to purge any remnants of bourgeoisie influence in their behaviors and thoughts.
Some colleges and universities were opened in 1974. But the qualification for admission was not the academic aptitude. It was your class identity and loyalty to Mao. You had to be a child of a party official, a peasant, or a worker.
In the end, Chinese traditional values and cultures were totally destroyed. Arising from the ashes emerged a brutal, absolute dictatorship. China became a police state where you could not trust anyone and you dared not even to hold thoughts that were not within party lines. You constantly had to criticize yourself, your spouse, your parents, your children, and others. You would never know when the police would knock on your door and make you disappear.
This brings us back to America. We are in a cultural revolution of our own. When it started is not clear, but we can trace it as far back as the ’60s when radical college students wanted to overthrow America’s government. They adored Mao and wanted to bring the Cultural Revolution to America. They occupied university campuses and some, like members of the infamous Weather Underground, even bombed federal buildings.
Then it fizzled. To their surprise, the working class did not join them. They disappeared from the public view. But they did not give up their fight. Many of them such as Bill Ayers became professors.
From the ‘80s, popular culture started to change. Homosexuality went from a perversion to an acceptable behavior to a celebrated sexual identity. Divorce became commonplace. Sex before marriage became the norm. LGBQT+ lifestyles are now taught all the way down to the kindergarten level.
The process was gradual, so the majority of Americans did not notice. But if we compare the current culture with that before the ‘60s, we see the result of a revolution. What used to be bad is now good. What used to be good is now bad. Christianity is now the counter culture. Even Western Civilization itself is demonized in academia and popular culture.
But in the last two years, American parents have started to wake up. 2020 gave them an unprecedented opportunity to see what their children were learning at schools. They did not like it. They saw their children were confused about their gender identities. They saw the teachers using made-up pronouns. They saw their children being told they were oppressors or oppressed purely based on their skin color.
The conservatives are also waking up. They saw the riots instigated or organized by groups like Antifa and BLM. They saw how the mainstream media distorted reality. They saw their state and federal governments overreach their authorities to declare emergency and close businesses.
I believe they overplayed their hand this year. It is the new phase of their revolution, but they started it too soon. The pushing of Critical Race Theory onto K-12 public schools gives parents and conservatives no choice but to fight back. This neo-Marxist ideology, as declared by its proponents, aims to fundamentally dismantle the Judeo-Christian foundation on which America was built. It wants to replace our capitalist economy with a socialist economy. It has rewritten America’s history. It pits people of color, especially the blacks, to fight against the whites.
Can we still win? Right now, they have the upper hand. They control the public education system, popular culture, the media, and higher education. But we still have a chance. We have federal and state constitutions that limit the power of the federal and state governments. In many states, parents have the choice of how to educate their children. And voters can elect school boards and vote in real constitutional conservatives. But we have to act now before it is too late.
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grew up during China's Cultural Revolution and immigrated to the US in 1995. He became a high school math teacher after having worked as an engineer for 20 years. Disillusioned with the current schooling model, he became an independent math teacher/tutor in 2018. He writes mainly on education and culture.• Get SALVO blog posts in your inbox! Copyright © 2023 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/post/the-undeclared-cultural-revolution-in-america